A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation


by: Peter Singer
Format: Hardcover

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Product Description In this ground-breaking book, a renowned bioethicist argues that the political left must radically revise its outdated view of human nature. He shows how the insights of modern evolutionary theory, particularly on the evolution of cooperation, can help the left attain its social and political goals. Singer explains why the left originally rejected Darwinian thought and why these reasons are no longer viable. He discusses how twentieth-century thinking has transformed our understanding of Darwinian evolution, showing that it is compatible with cooperation as well as competition, and that the left can draw on this modern understanding to foster cooperation for socially desirable ends. A Darwinian left, says Singer, would still be on the side of the weak, poor, and oppressed, but it would have a better understanding of what social and economic changes would really work to benefit them. It would also work toward a higher moral status for nonhuman animals and a less anthropocentric view of our dominance over nature. Amazon.com Review Philosophers don't have to be arcane and out of touch. Princeton's Peter Singer gives 21st-century liberals and radicals something to think about with the slim but powerful volume of Darwinism Today titled A Darwinian Left. Long noted for holding controversial bioethical beliefs related to animal rights, abortion, and euthanasia, Singer tends to quickly polarize his readers. This time, he chooses to antagonize those most sympathetic with his positions, arguing that the political left should re-evaluate its dependence on Marxism and its shunning of Darwinism. His writing is lucid and pulls no punches in examining the consequences of 20th-century answers to poverty; fans of the welfare state are in for some discomfort. But Singer sees making a few liberals squirm as crucial to stealing Darwinism from the right and combining the noble desire to help the helpless with a realistic view of human nature and evolution. He builds a compelling line of thought, peppered with examples, that shows how our competitive "survival of the fittest" conception of evolution falls far short of modern scientific thinking. Instead, Singer suggests we incorporate a Darwinian ethic of cooperation into our political thought and reflect carefully on the consequences of our remedies for the evils of the world. --Rob Lightner From Scientific American Any intrusion of ideology into science is an invitation to wishful thinking. In his powerfully argued A Darwinian Left, Peter Singer takes the opposite tack: How can science make ideology realistic rather than a pipe dream? Ideologies claim to be realistic, and by selectively picking what fits and ignoring whatever doesn't fit they commonly give themselves a veneer of intellectual respectability. Social Darwinism (always a misnomer) used to provide such a veneer for the socioeconomic Right, which has more recently adopted competitive efficiency for maximal growth in our too finite world. In either case, might makes Right. To Singer, and to me, the core of the Left is a set of values, most notably that worth is intrinsic and doesn't depend on success or power. Traditionally, various factual beliefs have been accreted to these values, such as the homogeneity of human nature and its perfectibility by social change. Because they are matters of fact, they can be empirically investigated. Indeed, on strong current evidence both these beliefs appear to be false. Singer devotes a substantial part of his 70-page book to setting the background for such revisions. The gist of his subsequent argument goes something like this: It is quixotic to try to eliminate features that are pretty much universal among cultures, such as self-interest, a system of social rank, or even sexual jealousy. Among such quasi-invariants, though, is a readiness to form cooperative relationships and to recognize reciprocal obligations. Although the relative importance of cooperation and competition var


Product Code: 9780300083231
ISBN: 0300083238
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 2000-04-01
Number of Pages: 70 pages
Languages: english
Edition: No Information
Dimension: 4.49 x 0.47 x 7.17 inches
Shipping Weight: 0.31 pounds